It is “inevitable” that there will be a new wave of Covid-19 infections, an expert said.
Professor Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said facial covering and some sort of social distancing may still be needed if a new wave of infections hits later this year.
Experts said it could take a few years to restore normal life, and scientists predicted a new wave of coronavirus cases will hit the UK.
Documents from the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group (Spi-M) have been released indicating that an increase in hospital admissions and deaths is “highly likely” in the later stages of the UK roadmap.
Prof. Hunter told the PA news agency: “I think it is inevitable that we will see another wave of infections because this is how the coronavirus behaves.
“There are other coronaviruses that we have lived with for decades, and they generally come in waves every two or three years.
“Vaccines reduce the risk of transmission, but they do not completely prevent transmission.
“And vaccine alone is not enough to bring the R-value below one.”
Speculating what a new wave of infections might look like, he said, “Current vaccines are very good at preventing serious illnesses – at least 80% after the first dose and probably closer to 90% to 95% after the second dose.
“Therefore, the relationship between cases and major illnesses and deaths that we saw last year is not repeated.
“And we will see far fewer serious cases and deaths than last year.”
He added that reinfection cases are likely to be “much less serious”.
“So if you see these waves of infection as we approach the next decade or whatever, they’re all going to happen in people who have already been vaccinated and who have probably had a natural infection as well.
“And so this disease will ultimately become less and less severe in the years to come.”
He said a potential new wave of infections this summer could be in both people who have yet to be vaccinated and people who haven’t built enough immunity from vaccinations.
“People who haven’t been vaccinated and haven’t had a natural infection are at greater risk of contracting the infection, becoming symptomatic, and becoming seriously ill,” he said.
But he said the vast majority of vulnerable groups had been vaccinated, “but by no means all”.
He added, “We will still see some people who have the vaccine developed serious illness and hospitalized, but there will be far fewer.”
When asked if social distancing will be required in the future, he told PA, “Regardless of what our guides tell us, I suspect there will be people who will wear face coverings for some time to come, regardless of whether they are do so or not legally.
“I can see for sure that you … will be relaxed at some point.
“If we see an increase in infections in the summer or fall, I could imagine that face coverings will continue to be worn in a number of contexts.
“I think if we see another wave we will be encouraged or forced to keep wearing face covering and practicing some form of social distancing.
“So probably no co-workers hugging and kissing this year.”
He added, “I don’t think we will get back to normal this year, but it will be a lot easier than before.”
Professor Sir Mark Walport told BBC Breakfast it could take a few years for everything to return to normal.
When asked how long social distancing and face masks could be part of people’s lives, he said, “We have lived with the flu for many years and we will unfortunately have to live with coronavirus, but we know that as time goes on Fall is going to change his relationship with us in the sense that more people are immune. “
He said flu can kill up to 20,000 people in a bad year, “and this is unfortunately another infection that kills particularly vulnerable elderly people”.
“I suspect we will have to live with some degree of social constraint at least this year, and we will see that hopefully next year we will get more and more normal and should return in a few years to complete normality. “